(You can also see the video on YouTube here.)
If you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember
that your brother has something against you, leave your gift
there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your
brother, and then come and offer your gift.
--Offertory sentence, Book of Common Prayer, p. 376
I have to admit, when I was a kid, the "Dollar bill on a piece of fishing line" was one of my favorite pranks. I was always amazed at how many grownups would bite on that one! People will fall for that one again and again. There's just something about a dollar bill that can tempt the most unobservant of us.
I think we also tend to be that way about truly letting go of the things that wound us.
Oh, we really DO desire to leave it on the altar...and maybe we even take it forward and place it there...but it is sooooo human nature to also tie a piece of monofilament line to it, and then give that line a pull and jerk it off the altar. Maybe even more than once. Sometimes we are as bad as Lucy and Charlie Brown and the football like that. We'll take that old hurt, or that old resentment, that we placed on the altar, and yank it back to us, repeatedly...and like that old dollar bill on the string trick, once in a while someone else will grab it, so to speak...and we'll go around and hurt that new person with the same old resentment, even if they had nothing to do with the original one.
I started thinking about this in a different way lately.
That business of intending to leave my resentments on the altar, then having something bubble up and me snatching it back, is an old habit of mine. That old compulsive nature of mine wants to nurse those grudges, or stew with those resentments, rather than truly leave them on the altar. I remember a time that I was trying to give up my resentments about a particular situation by taking the advice of someone I trusted---his advice was to pray for that person for two solid weeks--wish him or her every good thing and every blessing I'd wish for myself--and I'd get part way through and darned if another resentment didn't pop up. When it was all said and done--when I had actually managed to pray for that person two solid weeks and feel no resentment--it had taken nine months. It was not lost on me that this was the same time period as a pregnancy.
I have to admit, the advice worked--but I think it took a little longer than usual.
Something I've come to realize now that I've thought about this process of bringing our gifts--even if our gifts are, on any given day, a resentment or a piece of our woundedness--is that the moment we mentally placed them on that altar, they become consecrated along with the bread and the wine--they are no longer made of the same stuff. They are covered with holy stuff. To take them back and nurse them and hold onto them, is really taking something holy and not treating it with the respect a holy thing is due. I'm generally not a person who wants to mistreat holy things. So by thinking of it in this way, I find myself being able to put it back and leave it be more quickly.
It's better, I think, to leave our resentment there and instead focus on the messy business of reconciliation. When we are spending time toying with our resentments instead of reconciling, we're just sort of spinning our wheels. When we can leave it on the altar, I'm learning something that is just the opposite as the dollar bill on a string occurs. Oh, there's a string all right. But instead of us yanking the string, when we can truly leave something like that on the altar, IT pulls on the string and draws US closer to the altar--and isn't that where we should have been all along?